All of us seek meaning for our lives. We’ve done it, as a species, for all of time. We wonder ‘what’s the point of my life’ as we madly scrabble for something, or someone, to be that point. Of course, as events, circumstances and people join us on our daily walk, or abandon us in the middle of nowhere, the point changes, shifts, fades or brightens. This is Life, for nothing and no-one is forever.
Those, like me, who dedicate huge swathes of time in research on the meaning of life through words long written down by men and women so much wiser than I will ever be, people who ‘think too much’, (as was always written in my school reports) have found the answer. Well, the answer might be too small a word for it because it is a vast thing and not a thing at all.
Involved and committed as we are to whatever culture or span of time within which we live and move and have our being, we can make the fatal error of being pointless. Eyes down and legs running ever faster towards achievement, material wealth or one-upmanship will always leave us standing naked at the edge of the great River Styx wondering what just happened. My life happened, that’s what, and bother, I missed it. It happened without me, without my mindful awareness. Oh, I launched a few lovely children, built an empire, discovered a new wonder drug; I’ve been a good friend and neighbour, kept a tidy garden, limited the amount of TV I watch (thus disallowing a deconstruct of my core values and beliefs…..is that a double negative?) been kind to my family and other animals, kept cheerful regardless, welcomed strangers or change and so on tiddley pom, but what was the point of my little life that felt so big as I lived it?
I am. I am the point. So, why didn’t I get that as I leaped onto the daily hamster wheel? Cultures teach us to be self-less, and I applaud that, but not to the exclusion of self. The effort, time, thought and care we put into others is laudable. It’s what our parents and teachers tell us to do, after all, but, if we deny ourselves the same set of goodly things, we are just hamsters, not humans.
The locus of our power lies not in work, or working harder, or running faster, learning new forms of human manipulation for increased financial gain, but in the silent contemplation of a single soul beside a gently flowing stream. In other words leisure time, as priority, food for the imagination, a re-friending of the vast reaches of the natural world. And not just for an hour or two, now and then, but, indeed, for a considerable amount of time. Looking for meaning in the material world will never be enough, for we are so much more than the things we gather around us.
If we had this primary rule in place, the sickness queue wouldn’t be a queue at all. Suicide, abuse, murder, addiction, broken relationships, all that pain could never take over as it so clearly has done, were we to study the art of self love. Jesus, Buddha, Allah all knew it and tried to get the hamsters to look up and out beyond what we see and to really connect with the whole point of our lives. They must be exasperated as they watch us all hurtle towards the dark.
However, it only takes a few to start a revolution and this one needs no weapons, nor military tactics. It just needs more questing, reflective souls, readers who mindfully read to learn, to consider and to understand how simple life can be, how fulfilling, how healthy in body and mind. In solitary study, in a gentle place, taking time just to stand under the stars, to lean against an old tree, to watch children at play or to walk into a sunset, we turn the world off. Or, at least, its volume down. We say yes to self and in valuing that self we find love. Only then are we in a position to share that love.
Yep, that’s IT.